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Gunpoint is a 2D neo-noir stealth puzzle game that isn’t afraid to break the fourth wall

Gunpoint is a 2D neo-noir stealth puzzle game that isn’t afraid to break the fourth wall

Gunpoint

  • PC

$9.99 MSRP

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“There's no achievement for this.”

That's the message that Gunpoint displayed on the screen I punched an unconscious guard in the face for the 50th time.

“Jesus Christ,” the next message said as I continued whaling away at the poor pixelated man. You can punch as quickly as you can click, so it only takes a few seconds to rack up a huge amount of damage.

“Wait, are you just doing this to see if there are any more messages? Because that's among the worst reasons to punch someone in the face 104 times.”

The number at the end of the last message was a counter that started keeping track of the endless barrage. I found out near the end of the game that Gunpoint had lied to me. There actually was an achievement for punching unconscious guards in the face. It was called “Alright fine, take one…”

Inspector Gadget, Journeyman Electrician

Gunpoint is a sort of 2D action-puzzle game where you play as freelance spy, Richard Conway. He's essentially Inspector Gadget with a bizarre amount of knowledge about how to rewire electrical systems.

In each level you're tasked with infiltrating a building that is guarded by numerous heavily armed guards, locked doors, security cameras, and motion sensors. The main tool at your disposal is your ability to rewire electrical systems to gain an advantage over the level.

You can link together any two devices of the same color from anywhere in the level. So, for instance, if you need to get through a locked door you might be able to link the door to a motion sensor a few floors below and wait for a patrolling guard to trip the sensor. When he does, the door will pop open and allow you to slip through.

It's a wonderful mechanic for a puzzle game, because it allows you to come at a level from any perspective. There's usually no singular path through the level; it's more about figuring out a solution, any solution, that works for you and how your brain sees things.

In practice, the different ways of solving a problem don't produce different results or branching paths. The level will still proceed in much the same way each time, but the openness gives the game a free-form feeling as though you really are just a freelance spy, not a master secret agent, who is just figuring out this job on the fly.

Frog pants

The other tool you'll be using constantly is your Bullfrog Hypertrousers which allow Conway to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Or they can give you the strength to tackle a guard and punch them in the face 104 times. The trousers give you the gift of mobility and power where most stealth-puzzle games try to take it away.

The trousers are your best weapon against both the level and the guards who occupy it. They're also just plain fun to use. Just click and hold the left mouse button and Conway can leap up to the third or fourth floor of the building. Aim your jump trajectory at a guard and you'll tackle him with such force that you'll both be sent sliding across the floor (while you punch their face.)

The super pants also contribute to the sense of openness in the level design. In one level I managed to tackle a guard through a window and killed him on impact three floors below. The broken window attracted the attention of another guard. Using the super pants, I lept up to the second floor, quickly ran up the stairs behind the guard then tackled him out the window too, landing on the exact same spot as the previous guard.

Fourth Wall

Gunpoint is a fun puzzle platformer, but its writing is what endeared me to it the most. The story is a surprisingly competent, if short, detective mystery where you play the role of the gumshoe spy helping the many sides of a conspiracy work things out and frame each other.

I'm a sucker for cheesy detective stories, but I still think the narrative would be interesting to just about anyone. It's a short little mystery, somewhat in the same vein as Monaco, but the choose-your-own dialog style keeps things fresh and interesting at all times. Not only are you able to choose how you'd like to progress the story, but you're able to choose what you say to each character along the way.

Normally, this wouldn't be that interesting, but Gunpoint's dialog is just plain fun and is written in a modern style as though two people from 2013, one of which is a total smart-ass, were texting one another.

Part of the game's sense of fun comes from its neverending willingness to break the fourth wall to tease itself and video games as a whole. In a conversation late in the game, I chose a dialog option which admitted I had actually killed more people than I'd avenged in this story. Just then an achievement popped up that read, “Achievement Unlocked: Acknowledged Ludonarrative Dissonance” (gameplay that doesn't match the story.)

Gunpoint is a puzzle game, sure, but don't let that scare you away. It's also one of the most unique little games I've played in a while. It's short, taking only about 3 hours to complete, but these days I consider that a positive rather than a negative.

It's a tight, no-fluff, never-frustrating, good-humored experience with innovative mechanics that will challenge you to look at puzzles in a very new way, and for just $9.99 that makes it a steal in my book.